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Neurosci Lett. 2019 Apr 17;698:90-96. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2019.01.016. Epub 2019 Jan 8.

Coupling of motor oscillators - What really happens when you chew gum and walk?

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School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Old Dominion University, United States.
Department of Communication Disorders and Special Education, Old Dominion University, United States.
School of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Old Dominion University, United States. Electronic address:


Chewing and walking are two oscillatory behaviors performed on an everyday basis. The current study examined the impact chewing at different speeds (i.e. fast, slow, preferred) had on walking performance for fifteen young healthy adults (23.2 + 4.2 years) and fifteen healthy older participants (66.5 + 3.2 years). Chewing rates were attained from surface EMG activity recorded from the masseter muscle. For gait, accelerometers mounted on the lower trunk and lower leg were used to determine the timing of individual steps. In addition, a pressure sensitive walkway was also used to collect gait metrics (i.e., gait velocity, step length, step time). Our results demonstrated a strong link between chewing and walking for all participants, with increases or decreases in a person's chewing rate leading to similar changes in their stepping rate (and hence walking speed). One explanation for this coupling is that the neural drive related to chewing entrains the muscles involved in the basic gait action of stepping. The coupling of stepping with chewing rates for all individuals was observed despite the older adults tending to walk slower overall. However, there were no age-related differences in chewing rates, suggesting that despite the general slowing of motor function seen with increasing age, mastication itself does not appear to be similarly affected.


Age; Chewing; Coupling; Gait

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